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John Berry
John Berry

Dry Run Creek

When most anglers conjure up images of trout fishing in the Ozarks, most will imagine chasing big browns below Bull Shoals Dam or stalking huge rainbows on foot over on the Norfork Tailwater. While both of these angling adventures are worthy of making a special trip for the experience alone, there is another Ozark fishery that some have called "the best ¼ of trout fishing in the world". This little river rarely gets talked about, but there is a good reason for the lack fanfare.

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Dry Run Creek is a small waterway located just below Norfork Dam. Its functional purpose is to transport water from Norfork National Fish Hatchery to the Norfork Tailwater, but Dry Run Creek is also a world-class trout stream with many rainbows and browns in the six to ten-pound range (and MUCH bigger). With fish like this stacked from bank to bank, it would seem like it would only be a matter of time before excessive pressure would diminish the fishery, but there are special regulations in place that will ensure that there will always be plenty of chunky fish in Dry Run Creek.  Only youngsters under the age of 16 are allowed to fish 'the Creek', and there is also some access set aside for those who are physically disabled - still, the vast majority of Dry Run Creek fishermen are under sixteen.

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The sport fishery at Dry Run Creek was created in the late 1980's, and it was also Arkansas's first stretch of trout water with "catch and release" regulations. Trout in the Norfork River are naturally attracted the scent of the hatchery, so the fish will often instinctually ascend the creek and never leave. There is plenty of food available in the form of sow bugs, worms, sculpins, crayfish, and midges; any flies that imitate these morsels in a trout's diet are always top-producers.

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It used to be considered a 'novelty' to take some kids over to Dry Run Creek for a few hours in the afternoon, but now; it has become a bigger draw as the word has spread. Many parents recognize that it is just as fun watching their kids catch trophy fish as it is to catch trout themselves on the rivers, and with the age restriction, there are only so many opportunities for someone to fish there; this has no doubt also contributed to a few fly fishing parents encouraging their children to try the sport. There is no better place to learn the sport, and if a kid does not have fun fishing Dry Run, it's likely they are not going to enjoy trout fishing, period.

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If you are considering a trip to the White River and Norfork Tailwater, do not forget about the "Dry Run Creek option" if some kids are coming along. Because of the creek's short length, it really does not flood, and flows are not subject to unpredictable water releases like the tailwaters are. In other words: Dry Run Creek offers up great fishing virtually every day of the year, and as long as youth fishermen are accompanied by a licensed adult, it's possible to fish stable conditions from dusk to dawn.

DRC Tripp June 1

Depending on the nature of the kid, it seems like most are ready to give Dry Run a try at around eight to ten years of age. Hiring a guide is a great way to give a child the fishing experience of a lifetime. This is a very tight place to fish with some overhangs, so a guide allows the parents the chance to enjoy the outing while taking pictures until their heart's content - please feel free to ask Blue Ribbon Fly Shop about the many Dry Run Creek guiding options offered.

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Planning a trip to fish the White River, Norfork Tailwater and....Dry Run Creek is definitely a budget-friendly vacation that may result in the passing on of a passion from a parent to a child. A recent habitat-enhancement project (with much help from Dave Whitlock) has made Dry Run Creek safer, more accessible and there are significantly more pools for big fish.  In an era where there doesn't seem to be a resource left that isn't under attack, it is nice to see that the combination of sensible management, clear objectives and habitat enhancement has made Dry Run Creek a resource that will be enjoyed for generations to come.

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